Rupert Murdoch sees off challenge to 21st Century Fox chairmanship

Mogul sees off challenge from shareholder protest groups seeking to separate roles of chairman and CEO in US studio giant

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 October, 2013, 7:32am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 October, 2013, 7:32am

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch was re-elected chairman of 21st Century Fox despite protests from shareholder groups who sought to separate the chairman and chief executive positions of the family-dominated company.

Shareholders elected the 82-year-old CEO, his two sons, Lachlan and James, and the rest of the company's 12-person board during the meeting on Friday at the Fox studio lot in Los Angeles.

But investors not affiliated with the Murdoch family supported a proposal to create an independent chairman of the film and television company by about a 2-1 margin.

Shareholders representing almost 147 million Class B voting shares backed the plan, according to a filing yesterday by New York-based Fox after the company's annual meeting in Los Angeles. Votes opposing totalled 361.7 million, including about 280 million cast by Murdoch and his family trust.

With the vote, investors are keeping up the pressure to split the roles of chairman and chief executive officer, both held by Murdoch. Lachlan wouldn't have been re-elected to the board without his father's votes.

Last year, unaffiliated investors voted 2-1 to split the jobs at News Corp, which was divided into two separate publishing and entertainment businesses.

"The level of family control - Mr Murdoch owns 40 per cent of voting shares - and the dual-class share structure which denies voting rights to Class A shareholders, were engineered to keep power in the hands of Mr Murdoch," said Julie Tanner of Christian Brothers Investment Services.

"While it is virtually impossible for a shareholder resolution to 'pass', a high vote result should send a clear signal to the board that change is needed."

Murdoch and Viet Dinh, a director who spoke on behalf of the board, defended the combined roles. Dinh said most of the biggest US companies combine the roles of chairman and CEO.

"Our CEO is best suited to serve as chairman," Dinh said at the meeting. "He facilitates communication between the board and senior management."

Fox called off voting on an investor proposal to end the company's dual-class capital structure, under which only Class B shares have voting rights, after the backers failed to appear.

Additional reporting by Reuters


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